DYESS AIR FORCE BASE, Texas --
There is no room for error when working on an aircraft, especially when it comes to the fuel system. Diagnosing and repairing fuel system malfunctions and correcting problems before planes are airborne are just a few of the things aircraft fuel systems specialists are responsible for.
By completing comprehensive checks on the C-130J Super Hercules, the Airmen at the 317th Maintenance Squadron fuel cell shop ensure that fuel systems won’t malfunction during any given flight. At Dyess, they specialize in repairing only the C-130.
“We conduct the removal and installation of fuel system components, as well as identify any structural fuel leaks that may limit the aircraft’s ability to complete its mission,” said Staff Sgt. Ehren Reffner, 317th MXS aircraft fuel systems journeyman. “Here at Dyess, our job is to ensure that the aircraft’s fuel systems are functioning properly in order to deliver personnel, equipment and supplies.”
Making sure an aircraft is safe and mission ready is a 24/7 job. For the fuel cell shop, they work day and night to ensure that the C-130 isn’t malfunctioning or damaged before they send it back to the flightline.
“We cover a 24 hour operation which is split between three shifts: days, mids and swings,” said Senior Airman Michael Quatman, 317th MXS aircraft fuel systems journeyman. “We work day and night so that we can facilitate any maintenance that may come up during any time of the day.”
The team of approximately 40 Airmen understands that training is a very important part of their job. If the shop doesn’t have any aircraft that need to be fixed, they focus on preparing themselves for fixing the next problem that comes their way. These Airmen learn the basics at their technical school and are then trained more in depth on a specific aircraft once they arrive to their first duty station.
“We are not trained on one specific airframe,” said Reffner. “As a fuel systems specialist, our mission changes depending on the airframe we’re expected to maintain.”
The work done by these Airmen is very unique considering what they go through to get their job done.
“Most often, the conditions we work in can be extremely hazardous such as being exposed to certain chemicals and the possibility of becoming stuck in small spaces,” said Quatman. “However, without our expertise, if any issues with the fuel components inside the aircraft malfunction or fault, there are no other personnel trained like we are that can fix the issue.”
For some Airmen, the most challenging part of their job is also what makes them the most passionate.
“I’m 6’5 so it can be a challenge sometimes to get inside a fuel tank and repair a component leak,” said Reffner. “However, that’s what makes it unique from most jobs on the flightline. We’re required to crawl in those tight spaces and work in the dark, upside down while wearing all of the required protective equipment.”
Working 24-hour operations to ensure the C-130 is in good shape to fly, the 317th fuel cell shop constantly puts in hard work and trains to keep aircraft and personnel safe and mission ready at all times.
“This job requires a lot of patience and determination in order to accomplish our work,” explained Reffner. “We work our hardest to ensure our aircraft are up and running so they can complete their mission.”